In today’s increasingly globalized business environment, the demand is growing for internationally minded executives who can produce results across a variety of markets and cultures. It can be argued that there has never been a better time to pursue an expatriate career as finding and developing these individuals is a key priority for multinational firms. However, searching for the right position abroad presents its own set of challenges. Below are some tips to keep in mind.
Identify your unique strengths
To obtain an international assignment, you must bring some unique value to the table, like a deep set of skills and expertise or market specific knowledge. The best way to show your worth is to focus on your achievements. Make sure your resume clearly conveys that you have the traits and abilities that will make you successful in your targeted roles.
The “soft skills” count…a lot
When trying to fill an expatriate assignment, international recruiters and executive search consultants look for candidates who have demonstrated an ability to adapt and be flexible in the course of their careers. Whether this is shown through a successful transition between very different divisions of the same firm, leading large multicultural teams, or working outside your home market, you should position yourself as a person who relishes diversity and embraces change.
Since international assignments involve a lot of first-time learning, interviewers sometimes employ the tactic of deliberately unnerving candidates to test their responses and see how well they can cope in unexpected situations. In the words of one executive, learning to “be comfortable being uncomfortable” is a necessary skill.
Cultural dexterity is another highly sought-after quality in expatriate managers. Set yourself apart from other professionals by demonstrating qualities such as humility, sensitivity, intellectual curiosity and agility. In new situations, listening and building relationships is as important as exerting influence and effecting immediate change.
Develop a strong personal brand
A good way to do so is by building your online presence. An up to date LinkedIn profile is an extremely important tool for any job seeker. Blogging is another powerful way to convey your professional expertise and position yourself as a subject matter expert. A well-developed online presence makes you more accessible to search consultants and potential employers by increasing your visibility, and can play an important role when it comes to salary negotiation.
Be willing to make a longer-term commitment
Companies generally expect at least a three to five year commitment from expatriate employees as the first year is usually spent in getting up to speed with productive contributions to the business starting after the settling in period. Boost your chances of being hired by demonstrating a genuine interest in building a comprehensive international career. Learning the local language is a one way of doing so. Proactively learning a new language shows initiative, commitment to a country or region, and your intention to truly engage with people in a new environment.
Finding the right expatriate assignment in an increasingly integrated and competitive global market takes time, effort and persistence. Following the above suggestions can help set you apart from other international executives.